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Covid 19 Omicron: It can take weeks to unravel the mystery of a new variant


The new Covid-19 variant Omicron has recently been identified in South Africa, leading to a new round of travel bans, just as many have finally begun to ease. Video / AP

Pandemic as countries limit travel and take other steps to stop the latest potentially dangerous coronavirus variants before anyone knows how dangerous Omicron really is. A tired world faces weeks of confusing uncertainty.

Will it spread even faster than the already contagious delta variant of the Covid-19 virus? Does it make people sick? Does it circumvent vaccine protection or reinfect survivors? There are many speculations, but little solid evidence, as scientists compete to find answers in scrutiny from the uneasy masses.

Trevor Bedford, who studies the evolution of the coronavirus at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, is “a fairly decent level of madness” about how he characterized the response of health professionals.

US scientists said Omicron might not be “probably not as bad as you might think, but I think it’s perfectly appropriate at this point, so treat it that way.”

So far, the world has been slow to react to the curve balls of each coronavirus. This time early warnings from South Africa and Botswana may have provided an important favorable start.

“It’s hard to know. Are we just catching up with reality and is the world now reacting at the right rate as varieties emerge?” For a collaborative study led by Harvard Medical School. I asked Dr. Jacob Lemie, who is watching the species.

On November 29, a woman was vaccinated with the coronavirus vaccine in Abuja, Nigeria. Photo / AP
On November 29, a woman was vaccinated with the coronavirus vaccine in Abuja, Nigeria. Photo / AP

Why worry?

Omicron has issued a warning because it has a much higher number of mutations than its predecessor. Perhaps 30 are important locations and are spike proteins that attach the virus to human cells.

Scientists are aware of some mutations from early mutants that were more contagious or slightly resistant to vaccination. But they have never seen this particular constellation of change.

Dr. William Moss of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said most were “really specific to this virus.” “Everyone is worried about the combination of potential transmissibility and ability (potential ability) to escape the immune system.

“It’s a balance,” Moss said. “We want to take this seriously because of the combination of mutations, but we don’t want to panic and we don’t want to overreact until we really learn about this virus.”

Scramble for an answer

Scientists still have little data on whether Omicron causes more serious illnesses than other variants. And while it’s already been diagnosed in many countries just days after the discovery was announced, it’s too early to know how contagious it is.

The Alpha variant, which emerged about a year ago, was more infectious than the virus that initiated the pandemic. Then Delta hit and became much more contagious than Alpha.

Passengers will wait at the ticket counter at OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg on November 29th. Photo / AP
Passengers will wait at the ticket counter at the Johannesburg or Tambo airport on November 29th. Photo / AP

Luis Mansky, director of the Institute for Molecular Virology, University of Minnesota, said how Omicron competes in the United States, where strong delta mutations cause more than 99% of current Covid-19 cases. He said it was unclear if he would do it.

Even in certain parts of South Africa, the reported surge in cases caused by Omicron may not indicate that the mutant is more contagious than Delta, Remu said.

“I really don’t know if Omicron completely outperforms Delta or if it happens to be the dominant stock in some places,” he said.

To better understand Omicron, scientists are trying to understand how it emerged. Not a descendant of Delta. One popular theory is that a person with a significantly weakened immune system was infected with the coronavirus and could not shake long enough to accumulate mutations.

“This is completely strange,” Bedford said, saying that the variants that were prevalent in the summer of 2020 seem to be Omicron’s closest relatives.

The virus mutates each time it spreads, and Omicron may have been boiled undetected somewhere due to insufficient testing of Covid-19. However, Bedford said the sudden appearance is likely the result of a cat-mouse struggle, as the immune-compromised body fights a virus that repeatedly alters peplomers to avoid detection. Stated. (Bedford is funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which also supports the Associated Press’s Department of Health Sciences.)

On November 30, workers disinfect chairs at a new vaccination center in Lisbon. Photo / AP
On November 30, workers disinfect chairs at a new vaccination center in Lisbon. Photo / AP

What to watch out for

Scientists say it may take two to four weeks to get some important answers.

One of the biggest concerns is how much Omicron can avoid immunity. So far, beta variants have been the biggest challenge in vaccine protection, but fortunately the variants have not been widespread.

“It is very unlikely that this new mutant will escape all antibodies produced after vaccination,” said E. John Welly, an immunoscientist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Vaccine makers and other scientists have set up lab tests to see how well vaccines or antibodies produced by previous infections can fight Omicron compared to previous mutants. First, it takes time because you need to grow a sample of so-called “pseudoviruses” that carry the new mutations you care about.

But that’s “not all,” Moss said.

The immune system has multiple layers of defense that go beyond antibodies. This includes T cells that help avoid serious illness even if someone experiences a breakthrough infection.

People wearing face masks to control the Covid-19 epidemic will walk downtown Lisbon on November 29th. Photo / AP
People wearing face masks to control the Covid-19 epidemic will walk downtown Lisbon on November 29th. Photo / AP

Experts also carefully monitor the prevalence and severity of infections caused by Omicron.

When it comes to treatment, Regeneron states that the Covid-19 antibody cocktail requires more testing, but may be less effective against Omicron. However, there are some antivirals in the pipeline. This is a long-needed new option that should not be affected by Omicron mutations.

What are you doing now?

Scientists urge people to take simple precautions while waiting for an answer. If you mask indoors, avoid the crowd, and are among the 45 million US adults who have not yet been vaccinated, you will get a shot regardless of which mutant is circulating.

One thing is clear: vaccination is still important. Today’s shots protect against already rampaging Delta and other versions of the virus, whether Omicron spreads or fuzzles. The United States and other countries are urging qualified boosters not to wait, as additional doses cause huge bursts of antibodies that fight the virus.

“People who are wondering whether to get vaccinated need to see the big reasons for getting vaccinated. Those who haven’t got a booster yet and are qualified need to get a booster. , Scientists and public health professionals are doing their job. “






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